Last December, in a heinous act of terrorism, seven terrorists affiliated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) conducted an attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. This was the deadliest terrorist attack ever to occur in Pakistan in which 141 people lost their lives including 132 innocent students, ranging between eight and eighteen years of age. A rescue operation was launched by Special Services Group (SSG) of army, who killed all seven terrorists whom were foreign nationals and rescued 960 people.
The attack sparked widespread reactions in Pakistan, receiving condemnations from public, government, political and religious entities, journalists and other members of Pakistani society. On the second day after the attack, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had revoked a six-year moratorium on the death penalty in terrorism-related cases. It is significant to note that over 60 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where executions do take place, such as the China, India, US and Indonesia.
On 6 January 2015, both houses of the Parliament unanimously passed the “Constitution Act 2015 (Twenty-First Amendment)”, which was signed into law by the President Mamnoon Hussain on 7 January 2015. The National Action Plan (NAP) was prepared by the All Parties Conference in consultation with the military. The reaction was natural, demanding corrective and punitive action. The Parliament abdicated its right in favour of the APC, which drafted the 21st amendment to the constitution. The Parliament approved it without much of debate. If there were any dissenting voices, they preferred not to attend the session. The amendment has given the twenty point National Action Plan to root out terrorism from Pakistan which envisages establishment of special courts for speedy trial of terror suspects and a crackdown on jihadi and sectarian outfits. These courts will try all terrorists whether they carry out attacks on military installations or civilians. Key points in the plan are action against proscribed outfits, reform of religious seminaries and the repatriation of Afghan refugees.
Almost all segments of society have welcomed the National Action Plan adopted with a consensus by the political leadership to rid the country of the scourge of terrorism. Under the plan, the Karachi operation would be taken to its logical conclusion, while there would be zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab. In Balochistan, the provincial government would be empowered to start political reconciliation with complete ownership by all stakeholders. However, action against terror financing, foreign funding of seminaries, proscribed organisations and sectarian groups, hate speeches, and madressah reforms are some of the elements of NAP that have long been identified as poor performing.
Pakistan is passing through exceptionally unusual circumstances and the situation warrants clear, bold and firm decisions to deal with the menace of terrorism, especially the threat of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It is mentionable that Pakistan’s Armed Forces have almost defeated the terrorists, particularly of the TTP by clearing the areas of North Waziristan Agency by military operation Zarb-e-Azb. Now, the operation which has been extended to other tribal areas needs support of the nation.
Undoubtedly, Peshawar school tragedy is a final wake up call to the whole nation, and now Pakistan has to decide firmly that barbarity of the terrorists will not be tolerated any more. Pakistan is in the state of new warfare, being waged by the Armed Forces and intelligence agencies against terrorists. Hence, all segments of nation must be on one page, which is necessary to implement the National Action Plan which itself is essential to win this war against terrorism. In fact, the menace of terrorism cannot be tackled with political expediencies, but with clear, firm and decisive policies, as on the tragic killing of 132 innocent school children, Pakistan must strike back terrorists and their sympathizers with zero tolerance.